President Obama comes to the Twin Cities on Tuesday to address the 10,000 delegates to the national American Legion convention at a time when young veterans are facing double-digit unemployment and Pentagon budgets are being considered for unprecedented reductions.
Obama is scheduled to speak at the Minneapolis Convention Center at 11 a.m.; no other appearances are scheduled in the state. He was last in Minnesota Aug. 15 as part of a three-day Upper Midwest trip.
Facing record deficits, $350 billion in proposed military spending cuts and the winding down of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama will address an audience strong on support of national defense and, as a policy paper from the Legion notes, "a properly trained and ready fighting force as prime deterrents to aggressors." He also will speak at a time when the Department of Defense has proposed revising the system of military retirements that could make it less attractive as a career.
Unemployment among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has hovered around 13 percent and Obama's Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, has pledged to end the growing problem of veteran homelessness by 2015. Shinseki is scheduled to speak to the delegates later this week.
National American Legion Commander Jimmie Foster said the unemployment issue among young vets is one of the most daunting and frustrating facing the 2.4-million-member organization, the nation's largest wartime veterans group.
"We're trainable, we come to work, we follow orders. We're a great asset," Foster said in an interview. "I don't understand what the stigma is. People need to invest in us and trust in us and, hopefully, it will be a win-win situation."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to speak Wednesday and Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is scheduled to speak Thursday.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434